Crisis is inevitable, but growth is a choice. COVID-19 has been variously called as a global reset, an unprecedented experience or a well of opportunity, but what the pandemic represents to Amrita Subramanian is a wakeup call that makes us realize just how connected we are to each other as humans and how our individual choices impact our relational universe. It is a trauma that unites the whole globe and forces everyone to unite for a single purpose. A faculty member at the Department of Organizational Dynamics at University of Pennsylvania, and also teaches at the Wharton School of Business, Amrita is currently pursuing her PhD in Human Development and Post-Traumatic Growth and Collective Trauma. Listen to her conversation with Dr. Diane Hamilton, where she expounds on the ideas she is working on for her dissertation, most notably the nature of growth during crisis as a choice that we have to intentionally make.
Personal branding is no longer a matter of telling the world that you are awesome and expect the world to come to you because you are awesome. You need to stand out and become the obvious choice for customers and that’s not how it’s done anymore. Joining Dr. Diane Hamilton for a chat, personal branding and digital marketing expert, Edwin Dearborn shares to us the essential things we need to remember when it comes to building a personal brand in the digital marketing world. Branding himself as a Virtual CMO, Edwin works with small businesses around the world to help them increase their profits. He also shares his branding and marketing expertise through his books and lectures. Aside from sharing personal branding principles and strategies, Edwin also talks about content creation and the critical importance of the CMO role in any business.
I’m glad you joined us because we have Amrita Subramanian and Edwin Dearborn here. Amrita is a faculty member and lecturer at organizational dynamics in Wharton. She’s a board member, CEO and coach. Edwin is a branding expert, author and Cofounder of Green Dragon Communications. We are going to talk about many things from leadership to handling crises to branding your product. It’s going to be an interesting show.
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On Crisis And Posttraumatic Growth With Amrita Subramanian
I am here with Amrita Subramanian. She served as Vice President at Global Strategic Talent Development in HSBC. She’s in pursuit of her PhD in Human Development and Post-Traumatic Growth and Collective Trauma. In addition to teaching, consulting, coaching, she does about everything. I’m excited to have Amrita on the show. Welcome.
Diane, now that you’re reading it, I’m wondering when do I breathe?
It always sounds great when you read stuff, but your stuff is wonderful. To get in at the Wharton School of Business is a pretty big deal. You’re dealing with the University of Pennsylvania and these different groups that have serious programs. I’m curious how you got to that level of success.
It’s wonderful that you frame it that way. The stories always begin at a point that is little visible at this state of reality. My story began in an unknown place. I say unknown very deliberately. I grew up in a convent amongst nuns and growing up at the time, I had no idea that one day I would have the honor of being where I am and where life has placed me. I can’t say that I had the taste of a future or destiny or any of that. It was quite extraordinarily ordinary growing up. That is my superpower that I stayed rooted in who I am. It’s understanding that life is going to bring innumerable crises.
The funny thing about crisis is that it makes us very teachable. When your reality no longer works, you have a choice to delete the version of yourself that is no longer working and work furiously on an upgrade of yourself or make leaps into what you want your future to be. For me, the leap was that I wanted to make a difference in the world. The life that I had been given, as fancy as it sounds, it was very extraordinary, a dream. That it should make sense that I exist because the question that plagues all of us at this moment is why am I existing? How is it that we existing in the way we are existing? This is my fourth career.
It’s complete reinvention upon reinvention. I don’t think I’d recognize myself if I met the sixteen-year-old or the sixteen-year-old would recognize me. You do what is probably the question. Sixteen to the first job at General Electric to the last one across the pond was with HSBC. I came to the United States, to the University of Pennsylvania because I was done with the corruption. I’d lived through the recession that had happened. I was at the bank then. I saw the complete financial meltdown, and we fired thousands of people. These were people that I knew I had hired, I had loved, I had shared bread with.
It is a bloodless war on your soul. You’re not left unchanged. I had to ask, “How can I be powerful in the bank and be powerless to prevent such a calamity?” Little did we know that the recession is a cyclical thing in late capitalism and it is bound with so many of the banks already bracing themselves a year before COVID was even on the horizon. I came to the University of Pennsylvania to study the paradox of power. How does this happen that very smart people end up taking decisions that are so harmful to the whole of species on the planet?Unless you make the unconscious conscious, you will call it fate. Click To Tweet
By the time I graduated, my chair at the time who must have had a very wonky sense of humor said, “What next you’re going to teach here.” I looked back and said, “Who me? Do you think I’d be a very subversive teacher if you bring me in?” That’s how my journey started at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Organizational Dynamics. Before long, my work invited the attention of the good kind. I started collaborating with working with amazing stunningly, brilliant faculty members there.
Diane, for the first two years, I did not realize what I was doing. It was one after the other and exploring deeper and deeper. It’s almost like I’m living a destiny that has been given in a very responsible and a sacred way. I have to be very mindful how I use my voice and expression. It’s historic for me in my life that I’m the first generation in my family to be as fully educated as a woman child. I don’t wear that easily. I’m aware that I might be serving as precedence or something.
When you talk about your growing up in a convent, that’s got to be a very unique story. I can’t imagine going from what you say your humble beginnings are to making this statement of what you can do and realizing. When you’re talking about this, I’m thinking of how you were saying reality no longer works. We’re talking about some of this reality things of what we end up doing versus what we think we’re going to do. It’s a conversation that I’ve had with my co-author of a book I’m writing on perception. Our perceptions are changing right now with everything that’s going on. When you’re dealing with this crisis and what we thought was our real world, it’s almost the red pill versus the blue pill, Matrix feeling to me right now. How did you get interested in studying this trauma? Did you realize that you’d be studying this in the middle of this crisis?
I have massive guilt about that. I shouldn’t have wished for that. There are three levels to that. I’m not surprised you speaking of the blue or the red pill. It almost seems like a pain, which is the other end of the spectrum of pleasure. We are constantly avoiding pain. Our life is geared towards repeating more of what gives us pleasure. One of the things, quite like you said, our perception, perceiving mind is flawed because we choose what we want to see. We know that about our selective perception.
We have a set of assumptions that this is reality tomorrow when I wake up after I drink my coffee, the reality persists, but with the world going hyper-real, a virtual overnight, the web of life or my assumed world of reality was shattered. With that was the psychological safety because safety is when things remain predictable, even if we say, “As species, we adapt. We survived and we have this ferocious life force that allows us to do that.” The fact remains is when the psychological safety is shuttered so severely, we are at a loss of a grammar. We don’t know how to cope.
Coping is not even an awareness, a choice that is conscious at the time. We simply survive. The baseline task of our human consciousness is to do whatever to survive. The higher-end goal could be a pure composed, be sensible, pretend to be sane. We are caught in this no place, a place where I don’t have a map, cognitive precedence. It happened back then. We’re called Homo sapiens. We’re called the wise ones because we sense reality. We see reality, but that has upended. Reality is no longer what we think we see or we sense.
From a five-dimensional reality of touch, sound, smell, we have moved to a two-dimensional reality. It’s quite like The Matrix that we plugged in, jacked in overnight. We weren’t aware that something so invisible could present such a mortal threat to us, the existential angst, which was very implicit in all of us as creatures. We are a neurobiological unit. We are extremely sharp in sensing what is a threat, but when it ties into a conceptual knot that I don’t know who the threat is. It is an invisible virus or the fear of it magnifies so much that I lose my balance. My perceiving mind is experiencing vertigo to say, “How do I travel the spectrum? How do I continue to love, continue to play, continue to work, continue to maintain an equilibrium when I’ve been spun like a top?” I have no sense of where my internal GPS is. For me, I recognize this feeling when I was a child.
I recognize feeling completely at sea about this. In a strange way in the age that I am, I have now the capacity to look back and see perhaps I was being prepared for this all my life. Trauma in English or Greek has the meaning of a wound and has a negative connotation. In German, it means dream. If you look at the spectrum and for a while, zoom out and drop the polarity or binary way of thinking of good, bad and absolutes, you suddenly look at it as a shaping. You’re shaped by your dreams.
You’re shaped by the memories. Those memories shape us in different way. What is pivotal in that shaping is the choice you make. That is the linchpin of what happens after a crisis. For many of us, the question is what grows in me, or is there any scale of growing because we traveled the spectrum where there’s a lack of ease on one end, which our extremities make it a medical clinical condition we call PTSD. The other end is the spectrum of growth, the choice of growth.
There are many parts that lead to growth. In a very serendipitous way, I am aware that in 2019 when I started taking the course on posttraumatic growth and protocols of unspeakable pain in very successful human beings. When I say successful, I mean every person who is leading their own lives, how does that show up? Most of us are unconscious of how the pain bends us because we’re so focused or taught to focus on pleasure in the society that we live in. I’m thinking of this. I’m at the beginning of your book and there was something you write about fate, fear, assumptions, technology and environment. One of the things that I study in trauma is the union at age, unless you make the unconscious conscious, you will call it fate. At this time, we think that this trauma is fatalistic, but there is another perspective on this that is on the other side of growth.
You touched on so many things. A lot of the things I deal with in the book you’re reading are getting out of the status quo, thinking you’re talking about psychological safety. We wanted the predictable, but that can be what’s keeping people back, not having them be engaged and innovative. Reality is the next focus I had in the book on perception. As you’re talking about, this is what we see and what we think isn’t what everybody else necessarily sees and thinks. My co-author brought up Plato’s allegory of the cave in the book, which is an interesting look at if you were in a cave and you’re looking at the shadows on the wall and you can’t see what the reality is of what makes those shadows. We’re in that place right now, where we’re not recognizing a lot of what was happening behind these shadows. We didn’t see it. When you’re talking about PTSD and growth, how do you get from that PTSD to growth and recognize that these are maybe shadows and what’s behind everything here?
What a fantastic and insightful ask. I’m reflecting with you as a human being. In most cases and most human beings don’t travel to the far end unless there is extreme violence to your psychological or emotional entity. We think of generations. There was a lot of conversation on intergenerational conversation, etc. Generation is not the way the senses define us, for instance in America, but generation is a collection of events that shape a certain demographic in a certain period of time.
If you look at this, we are all COVID generation now. Something that unites from the silent to the Gen Z, we are all united in this across the world. In 2019, when I started studying about trauma, the dominant one is PTSD because of the prominence of wars that we’ve had in our history, in the 1900s. PTG or Post Traumatic Growth, on the other spectrum has less celebrity status because it’s not pill related. It is on huge psychological awareness, choices and growth, which say that the individual is fully capable of bringing themselves to the point of growth. This pivotal question that you ask, what is the linchpin? The same event can shutter someone and the same event can become the source of renewal, or it’s like becoming Neo, continuing the metaphor of Matrix. We all emerge as Neo’s old reality.
That happens when we look at what happens when our reality gets shattered. There are three things that happen primarily. First, I stopped believing that the world is kind, that the world is cruel becomes our insights. The shattering that the world is a fair place, it becomes the world is unjust. That life is meaningful. Life becomes neolistic. Nietzsche becomes my favorite. I look into the abyss of darkness. The last one that is the most tasted and insidious is I lose my sense of worth. I’m worthless if I don’t do this because the reality that I had, the predictability that I had is all taken away.
What happens is I lose trust in myself. The moment that happens, my fulcrum of order in the chaos that exists around me, which has always existed around me. That’s why we live in bounded rationality. We create a boundary and say, “Whatever is within this is sane for me. Anything outside of this is pure madness.” We live in that bounded rationality. When these four things get shattered, I cannot have stillness inside, which allows me to function. We think that psychological stillness is stillness from the outside, but it is still in your mind without waiting for someone else to steal it. Going back to the interview with Dr. Demartini, you speak of social conformity and this woman’s experiment, who was sitting up and standing down every time the bell was ringing.To keep doing what you’re doing and expect different results in a reality that is no longer true is surrendering to insanity. Click To Tweet
If you look around, we find that there are some of us, who have made the choice of becoming deeper human beings through this crisis. There are some of us who have chosen to completely surrender to the chaos. The question then becomes is what choices have we exercised when we have chosen chaos or we’ve chosen learning from chaos because that’s the two-part of the perception of the mind. I either have an analysis of how I learn or I disown how I’m learning, what I’m learning quite to your point. If I keep doing what I’m doing and expect different results in a reality that is no longer true, I am surrendering to insanity.
When you’re talking about how we interpret and I was thinking when you said the Nietzsche comment of the fish called Wanda, I don’t know if you ever watched that movie and his interpretation cracked me up. I’m seeing Kevin Klein and how we look at these things, but you’re bringing up some important points that I talk about and write about in perception. How we take what we’ve learned and move to the next step is critical. When you’re working in a global environment and you recognize that your interpretation of how an event and what the next step is going to be different from somebody else’s.
I love that you talked about the COVID generation because we talked about Millennials being the post 9/11, or whatever group you’re associated with whatever happened at that time. If we’re all more united now from this, but how we react might be different, which is interesting. I want to know about your doctoral dissertation on this. You’re in the final stages as I mentioned. Tell me a little bit about how you’re dealing with that, the post-traumatic growth and collective trauma.
It is still unfolding so it’s becoming whatever it will become. In 2019, when I started studying about this, I wrote in one of my town papers that we have trauma in different pockets and now I’m using trauma as a shaping memory. Whether it’s a trauma of sudden economic growth, prosperity, social growth, social movements, or it is anything like Chernobyl’s three-mile radius or a memory of a wounded knee, no matter what you look at. In my term paper, I wrote, “We don’t have a trauma that unites the whole globe. Financial meltdowns affect economic classes. Healthcare meltdowns affect countries or they are located.” I do talk about endemics. Little did I know and my teacher, Dr. Miguel Gaete reminded me.
He said, “Amrita, if you read your paper, you were asking that the world does not have a history where we’ve all dropped a personal agenda, their economic agendas, and got united for one purpose only, which is the wellbeing of the whole planet and the world.” Come COVID, one of the things that have come and stalk contrast, all the layers of deception have fallen off. It’s an awakening to see how connected we are. We’ve always known intellectually. What bakes the conceptual note is to see that I am not very different from the war that is going on in Armenia where the struggle of 113 million children in Syria or that 11% of the species are wiped out without any meteors hitting us that our late capitalism is creating a sudden reality where we are no longer coexisting in Anthropocene.
All of these when I begin my dissertation, the question I’m reaching to human beings like you and me, is what has grown through you and who have you become? Because growth is not an assumption. Growth is a choice. We all make the choices, what we have to understand quite like The Matrix is the why of it. Once you know the why of it, you have to ask yourself beyond. The buzzwords I’ve already test to be purposeful. I want my freedom or autonomy. It has to be to what end is the world going to be.
We don’t have an interstellar Hilton waiting for us outside. I’ll pop in and get to Uber or Tesla and go there. The point remains is, as much as our relational universe on the inside is affected by the choices that we make in this crisis is also because we are collective intelligence. We are a collective affects the whole world. We don’t see because it is impossible to see within a bounded rationality of the unit of analysis of one. One mind cannot see how one mind’s decision affects all the minds and all the lives.
It’s almost an insane concept to comprehend that we might have an infinite impact on our fellow species and sentient beings by the choices we make. My dissertation narrowing down because you can’t study all of that is to simply study what is the grammar of growth and how do people who are growing through the crisis. When I say grow, I don’t mean the economic parameter. It is one of the many, but there are several parameters of growth that people expect. Most of it is the psychological growth. Some people call it the growth of the spirit, the awareness of a higher consciousness as they go through this.
That’s where I am in the middle and what I’m receiving. Diane it’s stunning. The stunning levels of perception that is getting cleared. One of the human beings spoke of it like, “This crisis served as an utter shock.” I had such clarity on how I was wasting my life. When I probed as to why be deliberate about the usage of the word waste, and then he replaced it with a word distracted that how he was choosing to be distracted with so many choices being thrown at him, he did not realize he was not choosing what he needed to. He fell into the trap of wanting to choose the things that he thinks he should be wanting, which is social and cultural sanctioning of things. It’s been very interesting for me to see how people have chosen insights that have been very hard to swallow. Who likes to believe that I’m waking up at 45 and realize that I’ve wasted my life? No one.
Your research sounds fascinating. I’ve always been a Star Trek fan. I love the thought of being united for one purpose thing that they came up with at the end because we’ve been divided in many different ways. Hopefully, we’ll get a positive outcome out of some of these very scary times that we’re going through. What you research is so important, and it’s such a fascinating discussion. A lot of people want to know more about what you’re working on and how to follow you. Do you have a website or social media or something people can follow you?
As for now, LinkedIn is the place and that’s where I’m going to post all of my research so that it’s easier for people to do that. That is the place to connect with me. I would love to connect with human beings out there who are performing everyday roles of heroes, mothers, and fathers, and people and individuals who are doing the best that they possibly can. Some of them are pushing them to the limits they don’t even know. I bow to them. I salute to them because what they are rising above is inexplicably pain of the loss of reality and they’re still marching on. I don’t know if there is anything greater than that human virtue. It will be a joy to be able to put my work before them and say, “It’s not someone else doing it. It’s one of us.”
Thank you for sharing. It was insightful. Thank you, Amrita for sharing your work.
Diane, thank you for bringing up the conversations. There are so many great things that are happening outside of the chaos that surrounds us politically, culturally, socially. The fact that you’ve created a space where this too can find that voice. I’m grateful to you and all the readers. Thank you for creating this moment.
You’re welcome. Thank you. We learned so much.
Personal Branding With Edwin DearbornGrowth is not an assumption. It is a choice. Click To Tweet
I am here with Edwin Dearborn, who is the author of three books and has lectured thousands of business professionals around the globe on the subjects of branding, social media and digital marketing, including Three Degrees of Separation: Learn How to Build Powerful Connections in Business. In addition, Edwin has spent many years specializing in working with small businesses to increase their profits across the US and the globe. It’s nice to have you here, Edwin.
Thank you. I feel honored to be on your show.
This is an interesting subject for anyone. It’s focused on not just company’s branding, but personal branding, all these issues associated with this. Before we get into that, I want to get a little background on you. How did you get interested in this direction?
I was living in Orange County, California pretty much my whole life. Back in 1982, I graduated high school and my parents had started a travel agency in Irvine, California. I had no business skills. I’m eighteen years old. I know nothing about the world, but we have a family business. Back in 1982, marketing was the yellow pages, flyers, ads in the paper and then the radio, but we couldn’t afford ads in the newspaper or the radio. It was down to yellow page ads and flyers.
My mom and dad were like, “We were in a business park in Irvine. Why don’t you make some flyers and hand them out to the businesses?” That I could do. I could make flyers and hand out flyers. I started handing flyers. Lo and behold, we started getting phone calls from the flyers. Mom told me, “Eddie, we’re getting phone calls from your flyers.” I’m like, “Really?” All of a sudden, I got to see the cause and effect occur. I thought, “I should probably learn more about what I’m doing.” It’s always a good idea to get some education.
A community college, Orange Coast College, I was interested in photography. I took photography classes, but they had some advertising classes. I thought what a great adjunct to my photography. I can take pictures for the flyers, as well as learn about this thing called advertising. I had a great teacher and I was like, “I like this. This subject resonated with me.” I went to work for an advertising agency a couple of years later. He took me under his wing. I was also in Irvine, California. He started saying, “Read this book.” I was reading David Ogilvy, Trout, Ries and all the classics. I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life in business was how to get more business. That’s what advertising and marketing are accomplished. It was something that I saw as a common struggle. It fit my personality and I fell in love with the subject. Here we are now.
You’re the co-founder of a media communications firm, Green Dragon Communications and you partner in multiple businesses and capital ventures. You’ve embraced this. We were talking about a brand publishing course I wrote as part of my work with Forbes. I thought it was interesting at the time because I was supposed to present this launch at this Forbes CMO event. What we were focusing on was what all the pain points these CMOs had. It was kept coming up that the problem many of them were having was there were so many vendors trying to keep track of them, all connecting together, and coming up with a message that was personalized to reach people at scale were probably the biggest things that big companies are struggling with. Are you dealing with big companies, individuals who want personal branding? Who’s your customer?
I tell people that my ideal customer is the person who’s ambitious. You can have a big brand that’s not ambitious to grow like Sears or a Blockbuster. They were big and they didn’t have any ambition to innovate. They’ve gone the way of the Dodo. You get small brands that become big brands in a matter of years because they had ambition. I’ve worked with people at all levels. I tend to work with a lot of people in the medical field and healthcare because that’s an essential business and always will be. Financial services, mortgages, bookkeeping, CPAs, the financial arena will always be around. I tend to gravitate towards businesses that are foundational and fundamental to our economy. Many of them, the common question is how do I stand out? How do I rise above the noise?
As you’re saying all that, what I’m known for is developing curiosity with my assessments. One of the things I talk about quite a bit is the companies that have gone the way of the Dodo, as you put it, the Blockbusters. A lot of that is fascinating to me. My background is I worked in pharmaceuticals for quite a long time, almost twenty years for AstraZeneca and different aspects of that company and fifteen in pharmaceutical. The healthcare industry, I understand what you’re saying. In the financial services, I worked in banking as well for years. They are two very important fields.
The term now has a new meaning, but back then we had Me Too, as a Me-Too product. We were the same as just anyone else. In fact, in pharmaceuticals, I sold a drug that was exactly the same medication as my competitor. Nothing was different. It was generically the same exact drug, same price, same everything, but we comarketed it with Merck. The only difference was the name, that was it. I’ve never had to sell something where you didn’t have some an advantage. It was all name recognition. I had to go with that one because what else can you do? Have you ever seen anything like that? That was weird for me.
It is a common problem. Whether you’re a small business or big business. It’s very easy to get lumped in a group of Me-Too brands or “You’re a marketing guy.” “I know all about marketing. I’ve worked with guys before. You’re this. You’re a bookkeeper. I knew about bookkeeping.” It’s very hard for startups and even existing businesses. They’ve been around for a while going, “How do I stand out and become the obvious choice?” What we’re trying to do with branding and marketing is stand out and become the obvious choice for whatever your designated ideal market is. I tell people you have to stand out enough to move enough people. Your brand doesn’t have to change the world necessarily. Most small businesses if they grew by 20% or 30% would represent a significant change for them.
That 20% or 30% growth maybe another 50 clients or 150 clients. It doesn’t mean that they have to board thousands and thousands of clients. If you’re talking to a local doctor, “You get me an extra 10 to 20 new patients a month that may fix significant difference or a CPA firm. If you were to get me another 100 clients this year, that would make a massive difference in my bottom line.” I reverse engineer going, “Let’s look at the metrics that you want to hit. It’s probably not that big of a number. We have to stand out enough to attract that amount. How do we do that?” Most business people are like, “I don’t know how to do that.”
My husband is a plastic surgeon. He has been on my show and we talked about certain things that he deals with. One of the things that have been helpful in his industry, there’s a website called Real Self that plastic surgeons use as their LinkedIn connection about the doctors where people can find out what’s going on with it. He’s active on that site. Though he isn’t trying to grow his business because he’s very well established, he enjoys answering questions and getting on there and helping people. Being present in social media and whatever is the main social media for your business is critical to discover. Do you find that a lot of people are on the wrong platform sometimes?
They’re either on the wrong platform, but even more fundamental to that is they haven’t answered the question, what is the right platform and what do I do with it? You should be on the right platform but doing the wrong things.
Give me an example of the wrong things.Small brands can become big ones in a matter of years if they have ambition. Click To Tweet
You take financial firm and they’re probably on the right platform. They’re on Facebook. They’re trying to reach B2C customers. What they keep talking about is their expertise. No one cares. No one gives you know what about your brand. They’re doing their “branding” putting out their brand, buy me. It’s all about me. They go, “We’re not getting likes. We’re not getting any leads. We’re wasting a lot of shots.” It’s egocentric. They’re not looking to serve others in a very deep and genuine manner. They think this discipline from many years ago from Mad Men. Let’s put out how awesome we are and then they’ll come to us because we’re so awesome. I’m like, “That’s not how it works anymore.”
You’re talking about a lot of things that I studied. My dissertation was on emotional intelligence. You’re talking a lot about empathy, which is a big part of emotional intelligence. Being able to recognize somebody else’s perception of what their reality is. A lot of people need to build that. I don’t know especially doctors are taught that. If you don’t want to feel people’s pain, you’ve distanced yourself from what your patients or clients are feeling some to some extent. They beat it out of you in training. I’ve talked to my husband about this. It’s an interesting concept. When you’re trying to reach people, you have to think about what’s in it for them. Having been in sales forever, the main thing is asking questions and finding out more. How are you finding out what your customers need? How do you teach them to do that?
It’s a very important question that has a layer of answers to this. Number one, one of the things that I have found, you’ve got people in the field, your salespeople, your customer service reps, your ambassadors, your word of mouth, resources, your vendors. Interview them and get your finger on the pulse and doing, “What are you when you’re on the phone with customer service? What are the salespeople hearing in terms of reasons to buy or not to buy when they’re on the ground? What are your referral sources saying?” That’s the first thing.
Let’s get the real communication that’s happening on the ground level. We can’t divine the gods from a boardroom and find out what customers are thinking. We need to go out into the trenches and the people that are interacting every day. I do this with a couple of companies. Get me on the phone with the salespeople. When you’re pitching the deals, what are they saying? Why are they buying? Why are they not buying? Get that real-time data. Do deep dive homework. Number two, reverse engineer what your competitors are doing that are successful. If they’re successful, they found something. Why are they successful? What are they saying? What are they doing? What’s resonating?
Number three, look at your metrics, go to Google Analytics, go to your social media. What are the replies? What are they saying? What questions are they asking? That’s where I get inspired to write my content. I’ll put out a piece of content. I’ll see all these comments or questions. I’m like, “That’s my next piece of content.” If that one person’s asking that question, I guarantee you a thousand other people have that question.
What you talk about is important for people to recognize of what everybody else is thinking, what’s working. Sometimes people come out with ideas that are fascinating, but then they backfire. All this goes into is all publicity, good publicity. If it backfires in a way, can that be good as well? I think of the Gillette thing where everybody freaked out over their ads for men. They took it in a different way maybe than intended. Are there situations where even if it backfires and people get upset over a message that it is okay because you’re getting people talking?
If you’re getting the people that are talking to your “audience” that buy and they’re resonating with other people that will also buy, that’s fine. We’re in an election year. Not everybody is going to vote for the other guy. There are people that are in this camp and there are people that are in that camp. The people that are solid in either camp are not going to change no matter what. What you want to do is you want to sway the 15% that are like, “Should I go left? Should I go right? Should I go blue? Should I go red?” That’s where the marketing opportunity is, but that’s also true of any brand. Should I go with Toyota or should I go with Honda? I’m not a Toyota guy. I’m not a Honda guy. There are people on the fence if I can sway those. My thing is, if you’re a big brand, you’re never going to appeal to everyone. If you can appeal to the people that you want to appeal to and it’s gaining you traction within that audience, who cares if the other people are upset. You’re never going to win them over anyways.
I’m curious on your book, Three Degrees of Separation. What are the three degrees? What do you mean by that?
We’ve all heard about the Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon. That was like about many years ago. My thesis is this. Because of the proliferation of social media, email content, video, TikTok, etc., that degree has gone from 6 to 3. We’re three degrees away from a huge opportunity. Let’s say Kevin Bacon is a huge opportunity. You’re writing a movie and you write Kevin Bacon. Many years ago, we were six degrees away. My thesis is now we’re three degrees away because you’re my first degree. You may know somebody who knows Kevin Bacon.
That’s made it much closer because let’s say you’ve got 100,000 followers. One of your followers may know Kevin Bacon. I go deep into the book that we’ve shrunk the world from 6 degrees to 3 degrees. How do we inspire those three degrees to want to do business with me? I go into how to create content, how to show your genuineness, your empathy with your content and distribute it so that content eventually reaches someone who knows Kevin bacon and goes, “I watched your show on YouTube. Kevin Bacon would be perfect for your show.”
We’ll end up having Kevin Bacon on the show after this, which would be wonderful. I’m a fan.
Let me put this into a real application. Let’s say I want to be a Forbes contributing writer, which I would love to be. I looked at your website right now and I’m like, “She’s there. I’m two degrees away, maybe three degrees away from Forbes because I now know Dr. Diane Hamilton.” If your experience with me was terrible, I was a terrible interviewer. I was rude. I was late. I said, “Can you introduce me to Forbes?” You’d be like, “No.” Let’s say I’m a great guest. I’m polite. I’m entertaining. I’m informative. We continue to follow each other on social media. I’d come back maybe a month later and I go, “Diane, I was so moved by your show. I was humbled by having you onboard. I’m looking to be on Forbes. Is there any way that you could make an introduction for me?” That’s how I use content in my relationships to now move to that next degree of separation. Who knows? One day a year from now, I’m writing for Forbes and then Kevin Bacon reads my article.
It’s an interesting connectivity that we all have. I see a lot of that in the podcasting world. Somebody I’ve interviewed, you see everybody, then other people are interviewing. We all know each other and the world gets to be much smaller. You don’t recognize it until you get into an industry for a while how well-connected social media has made us. The world is flat in so many ways from Friedman’s thinking. What we’re trying to do is get our content to the right people in the way that they want it most. A lot of people are confused by what content to deliver. Maybe they’ve got the message down or they don’t have the message yet. What do you think is the most confusing thing in terms of content for people?
What I run into is, “What do I say? I should create content.” They don’t know how to storyboard or create a running theme that is genuine to their ethos, genuine to their nature, their purpose. How do I communicate that ethos and purpose to the world? I take a look at some of the people that are good at podcasting and good at YouTube shows. What I find is one for one, they’re so comfortable with how they’re doing it. They’re so comfortable with the message that they’re telling the world. A person first has to articulate. When I mean articulate, write down on a piece of paper exactly what is the impact that you want to create? What is your mission statement that you’re willing to die for? That you’re willing to go all in and commit and go, “This is what I am about that.” When you do that and you start speaking to that purpose and nurturing that ethos, you’re going to attract people that go, “That’s me too.” You started bringing more people on and now you start building a tribe.
Having a content calendar and having a way of making sure that everything is always being taken care of. I see some people who create content, especially smaller businesses, they get it out there and then they don’t know what else to do with it after that. There’s a process. There’s more to it than people recognize. That’s why they need to hire people often to help with that or outsource it if they don’t have that internal group set up.No one cares about your brand if it’s all about you. That’s not how it works anymore. Click To Tweet
As they start to grow, the weaknesses in their executive team start to shell. This is where I’ve evolved in marketing myself as a virtual CMO because you get these guys to get to $3 million, $4 million or $5 million in sales and they want to take it to the next level. I go, “Who’s in charge of your marketing.” It’s like, “He does the website and this girl does the tweets. This guy does the SEO.” I go, “Who’s running it and coordinating?” “I do it, I guess.” I go, “There you go. We’ve found a weakness. We don’t have an actual leader that’s aligning all the factors, putting all the voices together and do a unified whole.”
This is an important point because often I’ve seen a lot of teams. I was working with a team and everybody’s got their little subdivision within the team of their committees, but then there’s not one overall person looks, is this committee a right hand talking to the left-hand thing? There’s so much of that going on in the business world. I could I imagine so many people probably need help with this. This is a great time to talk about your work. Many people could benefit from what you do. I’m curious if you have a website or someplace that they could follow you, that you want to share in case anybody’s interested?
You could go to VirtualCMO.expert and that will give you a general idea. The website that I built is not about me, although we’ll be blogging and adding podcasts and interviews like we’re doing now, growing it. This is an evolution based on quarantine. Up to March 2020, I had a certain way of doing business for a certain type of client. When the world shut down, I had a lot of marketing clients going, “We’re not buying marketing anymore. We’re not in business. We shut it down.”
I sat back and that one night I had a Jerry Maguire moment. I was up all night typing my mission statement going, “How am I going to survive the post quarantine world? I have to become essential to essential businesses.” I rebranded a bit and we decided to go and say, “Instead of selling marketing, why don’t we become a leader and sit at the board level and direct and help businesses garner all the energy that’s being extended, but it’s not aligned.”
I found it to be a massive problem. I’d start to speak to this new purpose to people. They’re like, “Edwin, that’s exactly what’s going on with us. We’ve got an internal disorganization.” I knew I was onto something. If you go to VirtualCMO.expert, our main article speaks to what should an ideal CMO do? Whether it’s me or somebody else, here’s the outline. I’ve got my little places where you can click and download stuff. I get your email. I’m going to give content on you like this interview and other interviews that I plan on doing. If you decide to do business with me, great. Hopefully, I bring enough value and clarity through my content that at some point you go, “I want to Edwin on our team.”
You’ve got an interesting perspective with the Virtual CMO thing. I see it myself as a virtual COO oftentimes of many people need learning officers and they don’t have that. This is a great discussion. This has been so interesting. Edwin, thank you for being on the show.
Thank you for having me. I feel honored. Hopefully, both of us have great things occurred in our life in 2020 and beyond.
I hope everything goes up from 2020. It was nice to have you on the show.
I’d like to thank Amrita and Edwin for being my guests. We get so many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can find them at DrDianeHamilton.com. You can also find out more on my site about becoming an affiliate, hiring me to speak, taking the Curiosity Code Index, The Power of Perception book information is there. The Perception Power Index is there. About anything that I work on, you could find at the website, or you can go right to CuriosityCode.com to take the Curiosity Code Index. Hope you take some time to check out the information on the sites. I hope you enjoy this episode. I hope you join us for the next episode.
- Amrita Subramanian – LinkedIn
- Green Dragon Communications
- Three Degrees of Separation: Learn How to Build Powerful Connections in Business
- Real Self
- Curiosity Code Index
- The Perception Power Index
About Amrita Subramanian
Educator | Wharton Executive Education – Lecturer | Management Consultant and Executive Coach | Senior Practitioner in Strategic Business Operations | Management Consultant | Advisor on Strategy to Boards | International Financial Services & Technology | Strategic Consulting for Change Management | Critical Talent & Succession Planning | Group Dynamics | Institutional Conflict, Power, Politics and System Intelligence
• Conceptualize & create capability in the organization for implementing corporate strategy
• Leadership and how culture can intentionally evolve for sustained competitive edge
• Large Scale Change model | Progressive people and policy practices
• Complete Talent Management cycle
About Edwin Dearborn
The Orange County Register featured Edwin Dearborn as a true “Marketing Expert”. Edwin has also been featured in Entrepreneur, CBS MoneyWatch, Social Media Today, and other national media outlets. Edwin has appeared as a keynote speaker for Sony and the American Marketing Association. Edwin was formally educated in marketing and public relations in Hollywood, CA in the early 1990’s.
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